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What are the Back Office Operations of a Mobile Hotel Concierge App?

Question: What are the back office operations of a mobile hotel concierge app? 
Answer: Incorporating staff itineraries and guest messaging is key.
Full answer to this question published to Quora on 9/30/2016.


First, let’s define what a mobile hotel concierge app is, as it seems there are two readings of this currently in the industry.


A Hotel Services App

If you are looking for an app or a mobile site for guests to request services from their hotel then you will absolutely need a back end.

When the industry started building apps a few years back, it was driven by marketing. As such, little attention was given to the back-office operations required to actually execute these requests. As we have observed in other industries, mobile services are only a step change improvement for consumers when the consumer has access and transparency to the status of the request. When you request an Uber, you see when it is at your doorstep. Likewise, when you request food via Seamless, you know exactly how long it will take for your food to be delivered. This level of context requires the back-office staff, the actual service “deliverers” to be on the same platform. That means consideration of back-office operations is actually far more important than the mobile app access point (the consumer-facing front-end).  

When we first built ALICE, we realized this the hard way. We built an app for guests to request services and a very simple back-end to receive and accept them. Soon hotel staff started asking us why they could not log requests themselves in the system for the guests who were calling them or asking for items and services at the front desk. This point was crucial, as only when we allowed both staff and guests to enter requests would the entire itinerary or folio be captured. By building out our back-office operations platform extensively over the past few years, we’re now able to satisfy both staff and guest needs.


A Concierge System

The second category of “mobile hotel concierge app” is that of a concierge system that also allows for guest communication. This is one of the latest innovations to crop up in the hotel concierge space. It’s becoming widely accepted the traditional concierge system is not enough anymore. Concierge systems were built originally to track guest requests and itineraries, not communicate directly with guests. In today’s connected environment, however, a concierge system without guest messaging limits the amount of interaction a guest can have with the concierge and thus the amount of benefit a concierge can provide. Over the last three years, we have had to build out a very deep and innovative solution that allows concierge staff to track cab requests, restaurant requests, flowers, tours, babysitters… and so on. We have also then had to connect these requests to a local database (think your old “black book of restaurants”) so concierges can print maps, see opening times, and book the restaurants and vendors requested by your guests.

Local area attractions are a meaningful part of a guest’s reason for booking the hotel. By building in a local database, we are able to provide this important information to the concierge. Lastly, a concierge would not be complete without being able to speak to the guest. With many guests preferring digital to physical interaction (or simply being on a tour and not at the hotel to communicate in person), we have added messaging to our system. Guests can communicate with the hotel concierge through SMS, apps and web-based chat. The concierge is now empowered to communicate and confirm activities with the guests on-the-go.

As you can see from both these examples, the guest mobile layer is just the access point. The back-office operational considerations and system build out are crucial when it comes to satisfying guest requests and delivering an exceptional guest experience.